Luke could not have written the book of Acts any earlier than A.D. 62, which is where the record itself ends with the culmination of Paul’s two-year imprisonment at Rome. A later date is possible, but not likely. If Luke knew the events of Paul’s life following his imprisonment it seems only natural that he would have written them out to their conclusion. Instead, the book of Acts ends with a kind of “…” attached to the end, as if Luke meant to say, “the story is not over, it is continuing even still.” Which, in his and Paul’s case at the time, was literally true.
But what about Luke’s gospel? Isn’t it logical to assume he wrote it before he wrote Acts? Or perhaps he wrote both simultaneously and finshed them about the same time? We can’t be sure. Either way, most scholars are content to believe that Luke completed his account of Jesus’ life around the same time he did the story of Acts. Their conclusion suits me just fine at this point.
It’s interesting, though, when you consider the probable time at which Luke’s gospel was written. For he begins by saying this:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account…
So by A.D. 62 we are told there were already a number of gospels-“many,” according to Luke-floating around throughout the empire. This is interesting on so many levels. And Luke, believing himself to be in a good position to do the job justice, decided he would add his own perpective to the mix, having “followed all things closely for some time past.” This implies that his account had been a good while in the making.
But who were the people writing those other gospels? Mark was probably one of them. Maybe Matthew. Not John, though, for his writings came much later. That still only makes two, and two does not equal “many.” Evidently there were plenty of other disciples in those days eagerly writing down the story they were hearing from the mouths of the apostles and other such “eyewitnesses.” And who could blame them? The story of Jesus is undeniable in its power. Those who were nearest its source could do nothing but tell it.